As we gear up for the Conference Finals, we should take a moment to appreciate the matchups we have. The final four teams are as non-traditional as you can get, as we have 3 southern teams and an expansion team that is only in their 6th season of existence. While it isn’t exactly the best draw for some fans who would rather see Original 6 matchups, the fact that one of these teams will win the Stanley Cup is great for growing the game. All 4 teams will most likely see their fan bases increase, as new fans will undoubtedly cherish these games and begin to appreciate how awe-inspiring and difficult it is to make it this far in the NHL Playoffs.
We have done well through the first two rounds in terms of betting. We locked up a guaranteed profit after Round 1 with the exact outcomes, and after going 3-1 in Round 2 we are also guaranteed to profit on series prices. So, let’s try to keep that momentum as we enter the Conference Finals!
Round 2 Results
- Series Prices: 3-1 (+2.28 units)
- Exact Outcomes: 1-3 (+1.75 units)
- Series Prices: 8-4 (+4.68 units)
- Exact Outcomes: 6-6 (+24.25 units)
Eastern Conference Finals
FLORIDA PANTHERS (42-32-8) 92 pts
CAROLINA HURRICANES (52-21-9) 113 pts
We’ve got a family affair down south in the Eastern Conference Final. Eric & Marc Staal of the Panthers will be taking on the ‘Canes, who roster their younger brother Jordan. This will be the first time that the 3 Staal brothers face off in a playoff series. Though there will be some similar nameplates in this series, the routes that these teams took to arrive here are not similar at all. Carolina has looked to be a Stanley Cup contender from the first drop of the puck this season, absolutely dominating all of the defense and possession metrics – and I mean dominating – and through the first two rounds of the playoffs have remained true to form. Florida, on the other hand, started slow this season after their President’s Trophy winning campaign last year. They had to rely on a mad dash to end the season, along with a little outside help, to earn their playoff berth. But they accomplished that and are now playing their best hockey of the season. They stunned the record-breaking Boston Bruins in Round 1, and then proceeded to quickly take care of a Maple Leaf’s team that finished 2nd in the Atlantic Division and who had fooled a lot of people into believing this season would be “different” from their usual disappointing playoff exits.
So, we know we will see at least one Staal brother in the Stanley Cup Finals, but will Jordan be representing the family on his own, or will he be at home watching Eric & Marc try to add the family surname to the Cup two more times? Let’s dive into it. Florida has gotten to this point as a heavy underdog by taking their opponents’ strengths and using them to their advantage. Boston & Toronto are both teams who try to possess the puck for long periods of time, constantly probing their opponent’s defense looking for high-danger scoring opportunities. Florida was able to thwart this playing sound defensively and forcing teams to the outside, not giving up very much space in the middle of the ice. This made things easier on Bobrovsky, and once a low-danger shot was taken Florida would gather possession and be off to the races, coming with speed and coming with waves into the offensive zone. They would throw a lot of pucks on net and get the rebounds, or they would have their defensemen pinch in to make break out attempts miserable for their opposition. I don’t expect this to work very well against Carolina. The ‘Canes are a “no nonsense” type of hockey team. They don’t rely on an east & west game. They play north & south. They play it fast, and they play it well. Carolina won’t probe. They will just attack. They leave their opponents with very little time to set up defensively, so Florida needs to be ready to back-check. Carolina is just as aggressive in their own zone. They smother the puck carrier and as soon as that turnover is made, they break the puck out immediately. This won’t give Florida as many second chances as they have had through the first two rounds.
I expect Carolina to dictate play and take full advantage of any & all mistakes that the Panthers may make. That being said, Florida is playing great hockey and Bobrovsky has been solid. Couple that with the fact that they know how to score in bunches, and that may be enough to secure a couple victories. So, I’m saying ‘Canes in 6. Give me Carolina -130.
Western Conference Finals
DALLAS STARS (47-21-14) 108 pts
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS (51-22-9) 111 pts
In the Western Conference we have a bubble playoff rematch with the Vegas Golden Knights taking on the Dallas Stars. In order to get to this point, Vegas had to weather a plethora of injuries – especially at the goaltender position – to not only make the playoffs, but also claim the top seed in the Western Conference. After grinding their way through the regular season, they handed Winnipeg a gentleman’s sweep in Round 1, and then dispatched the Oilers and their high-scoring duo of McDavid & Draisaitl in 6 games in Round 2. Now they look to make a 2nd Stanley Cup Finals appearance during their limited tenure as a franchise. It won’t be an easy task. Dallas led the Central Division late in the season, but the Avs eventually edged them out by 1 point. They used a mix of veteran leadership and young scoring talent to claim 108 points in the regular season, and then to eliminate Minnesota by a series score of 4-2 in Round 1. They followed that up by advancing against Seattle in a back & forth series that went that distance, eventually seeing Dallas lock things down on home ice in Game 7. Dallas holds the biggest positional edge in this series with their goaltending, as Jake Oettinger’s stellar play was a rock for Dallas in the regular season. Although that edge doesn’t feel as large now considering the Kraken were able to get to the young net minder in Round 2, forcing head coach Pete DeBoer to pull him twice. Oettinger was able to pick some momentum back up in Game 7, only allowing 1 late goal after playing over 59 minutes of shutout hockey. The matchups between the forwards & defensemen of these teams is an interesting one. Dallas holds the edge in star power in both groups.
This series will feature one 40-goal scorer, two 30-goal scorers, 2 point per game players, and one 100-point scorer. They all belong to the Stars. Young, budding superstar Jason Robertson had a marvelous campaign, potting 46 goals and dishing out 63 assists. Roope Hintz & Jamie Benn complement him nicely, with Hintz going 37-38-75 in 73 games, while Benn went 33-45-78. And we can’t forget about smooth-skating defenseman Miro Heiskanen who is always a delight to watch. Vegas has some star power of their own in Jack Eichel & Mark Stone, but what they rely on is sound defense & depth. The Golden Knights only had 3 players suit up for all 82 games, but they have 10 players who amassed 30+ points this season, as well as 13 players who scored 10+ goals. That isn’t too bad for a team that had 471 man-games lost to injury. If there’s one thing that recent postseasons have taught us, it’s that depth is important. With Vegas finally getting healthy I have to believe that their depth will give them an edge over Dallas in this series. Vegas’ home ice advantage also ties into that. Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy can match up defensive guru Mark Stone against Dallas’ explosive stars when the series is in Nevada, and then let their superior bottom 6 go to work against Dallas’.
The depth advantage should loom large in Dallas as well, since Vegas can roll all 4 lines without giving DeBoer a noticeable advantage with the last change. With Vegas being able to come at Dallas in waves, and Oettinger looking smaller in goal than he did in the regular season, I believe Vegas is the play here. I’m saying Golden Knights in 6. Give me Vegas -140.